Remodeling a home is exciting, but navigating the planning, permitting, and construction process can be confusing. All remodeling and new home construction in Austin is regulated by the Land Development Code and the International Residential Code. In addition, a third component can influence proposed projects in Bryker Woods. Most of Bryker Woods is in a National Register Historic District (the Old West Austin Historic District), so all residential demolition, renovation, and construction in this area must be reviewed by the City’s Historic Preservation Office. Most projects will require a hearing in front of the Historic Landmark Commission (HLC). Plans must be submitted to the Historic Preservation Office three weeks before a scheduled HLC hearing.
The HLC hearings are held monthly and are open to the public. They are usually televised from City Council chambers. Notices of the hearings are mailed to surrounding neighbors and posted in front of the houses to be discussed, and all neighbors are invited to submit comments to the HLC, in writing or in person. The Bryker Woods Neighborhood Association (BWNA) board actively participates in these hearings and offers comments on all projects before the Historic Landmark Commission.
Given our commitment to this process, we strongly encourage neighbors to contact the BWNA Historic Review Committee members as soon as they are considering remodeling or reconstruction. Meeting with us first makes it possible to exchange ideas about homeowners’ goals and neighborhood goals. The HRC Committee will discuss strategies to make for a quicker review process while avoiding costly mistakes.
Neighborhood goals include considerations that may not be addressed by building codes, such as mature trees, walkable streets, and controlled runoff. The Bryker Woods Neighborhood Association encourages homeowners and builders to consider the scale, detailing, and materials of their project within the context of our existing neighborhood (as described by the Department of Interior document used to create our National Register Historic District). Just as neighbors notice the style and distinctive features of homes as they walk by, BWNA pays attention to these details when working with neighbors and the HLC on projects in the neighborhood.
If you are curious or concerned about planned construction near your home, you can contact the BWNA Historic Review Committee members to provide input. When neighbors are interested, we will facilitate meetings between homeowners planning construction and their neighbors to discuss goals and possible solutions to neighborhood concerns.
If you are remodeling or rebuilding, keep these things in mind as you make your plans:
- Contact the BWNA Historic Review Committee board members early in your planning process to begin a conversation about the aspects of your plans that might affect your neighbors.
- Think about how you will protect mature trees, control runoff from your property, and make the style and scale of your house compatible with other Bryker Woods homes. Attention to details such as front porch design, window style, exterior materials, and roof lines can make a big difference. Remember that neighbors may see all four sides of your house, so don’t focus only on the front façade.
- Consider rehabilitating, remodeling, and expanding your existing home before you decide you need to demolish a house and start over. Our old Bryker Woods houses have great bones!
- If you decide to demolish an existing home, you will need a Historic Landmark Commission review for both the demolition permit and the new construction. It will be simpler to wait until your construction plans are ready before you apply for a demolition permit, so that you only need to appear before the Commission once.
By working together, we can all enjoy and preserve the charm and character that drew so many of us to Bryker Woods in the first place.